Christmas and the New Year’s celebrations are over. It’s time to set resolutions, but I stopped doing that years ago, because there was no teeth in my resolutions. Mostly they just seem to be wishful thinking. “I want to lose 10/20/30 pounds, so I’ll go on a diet.” “I need to exercise more, so I’ll exercise daily from now on.” Many of us experience this sad truth. The “Y’s” and fitness gyms are very busy in January, but as the winter goes on the resolutions lose steam and fade away. Then it’s back to the regular members. It’s the same with dieting; soon all thought of a diet is gone.
Wishful thinking does not make for permanent change. Instead of throwing resolutions to the wind every year, consider setting intentions. These are special prayers with teeth, because we are asking God to be our partner in the change. We can set broad or far-reaching goals like I want to be a vector, to feel integrated instead of buffeted by many inner voices or I want to be more loving to family members, particularly _______. Or we can set small steps in what will become a larger goal in the near future as we succeed at the small steps. Either way we start with what we want.
Here’s how I think it works. God actually desires for us what we want and it is God’s voice we hear in our own desires. When we answer with our whole being, “Yes, that’s what I want for myself,” we are aligning our will with God’s will for us. This alignment is an invitation to God to transform this part of ourselves from, say, being unable to choose between all the inner voices to one clear inner voice, to be more loving, or whatever goal we want to accomplish. So weeks or months later we will feel entirely new in this area where we set the intention.
Now I do think we do need to be mindful about the intentions we set. If your intentions are all about gaining wealth and material things, I don’t think they’ll be successful. God’s much more interested in our own self-improvement, growing-edge projects like becoming more loving, letting go of resistance to deepening the relationship with God, creating a greater desire say for service, finding our true purpose or vocation, etc. Whatever is on our hearts and minds that is true to our deepest self is where God is willing to help.
Setting intentions is a powerful spiritual practice: over time we might have set a number of intentions as they occur to us. We are putting our wants and needs in God’s hands to accomplish. All we have to do is see the potential within ourselves, have the desire to improve our relationship with God, and lift the intentions up in prayer with our whole selves. Then watch the transformations take place. The Spirit does all the work.